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We got up early today, posted our blog about White Sands National Park and then tried to hitch up and hit the road.

When I say tried, I mean we couldn't raise the front jack on THE POD high enough to get the hitch ball on ROVER under the trailer tongue. It was tight when we unhitched six days ago, but now it won't fit?

The reason, our new tires! Although they are the same tire size of the ones we took off, these are 10-ply tires inflated to 75PSI. Our old tires were 6-ply tires and inflated to just 45PSI. Fortunately when we deflated the new tires down to 45PSI we were able to hitch up and go. Thank goodness!

We're headed just 20-miles north to the other side of town to get our water leak fixed. The shop opens at 8:30AM so we left the campground around 7:45AM to arrive on time. This also gave us enough time to dump our waste water tanks before leaving the campground.

No matter how well we plan things, there is always something out of our control. We arrived at the State Park's dump station only to find it locked up tight and a sign that said it was only open 8AM-4PM. It was 7:50AM, damn.

With no time to wait we headed out to keep our appointment, last thing we need is to miss our reserved time slot.

While there are no pretty pictures in this post, we did get some pretty good news at the Alamo RV & Truck Center just north of the Alamogordo city limits.

After just a few minutes of checking things out the service tech found the problem. On the backside (inside THE POD) of the city water inlet we had a pretty severe leak. The inlet is where you hookup a water hose to keep the water inside the trailer under constant pressure like you have in a standard house, bypassing the water pump.

Only during our first few months on the road did we hookup that way. Since early 2019 we have exclusively filled our fresh water tank and used our water pump to supply fresh water to all of our faucets and toilet, completely bypassing this city water option.

How was it leaking then? Well, while the water pump pressurizes the water lines it also fills this inlet pipe all the way up to a check valve that doesn't allow water to be pumped out in the wrong direction. That's where the leak was, on the backside of the check valve.

Of course this isn't just your ordinary $14 check valve common to most travel trailers and RVs. No, this is a proprietary "Airstream Check Valve Assembly" that no independant dealership in the country is going to have in stock.

So we did the next best thing! We had the technician cut the pipe and cap off the line leading up to the check valve. Then we also asked him to cap off the check valve side in case we both forget and try to put water into the city water inlet for some unknown reason.

Now that we have no more leak all we have to hope for is that our water pump doesn't fail and leave us with no way to get water up to the faucets. We can always just pour water into the toilet.

A half an hour later we were leaving the repair shop after paying our $58 bill and in search of a FREE dump station in Alamogordo. Turns out there are three options for that, we chose the Alamogordo Visitor Center mainly because it was on the right-hand side of the road as we headed back into town and we wouldn't have to cross any traffic lanes to access it.

With our waste tanks empty, and our gas tank full, we were all prepared to leave town. Only there is one BIG problem, the entire southern half of the state of New Mexico and northwestern Texas is under a HIGH WIND WARNING!

With 35-40MPH winds and gust up to 70MPH you can bet we won't be traveling on any highways today.

Lucky for us Alamogordo is a large enough city (pop. 30,898) to be able to support a Walmart location. Proper etiquette when "camping" at Walmart is to arrive no earlier than dinner and leave no later than breakfast.

Today however is an exception! Although it's only 9:30AM it's not safe to be traveling in an RV under these conditions.

When we arrived at Walmart I wasn't surprised to find a half dozen RVs and an 18-wheeler already in the parking lot. Apparently they don't wish to be on the road today either!

Would I have liked to move on down the road 100-miles or so today? Sure. It would have cut tomorrows 200+ mile route down to a more pleasurable length. Instead we're remaining safe, sitting here at Walmart watching the tumbleweeds and trash blow across the parking lot.

As an added bonus, every once is a while we'll see a shopping cart torpedo rolling across the parking lot with it's sights set right on the center of THE POD. It's like somehow our aluminum trailer has become magnetized.

Tricia has taken it upon herself to intercept these incoming projectiles and return them to their proper corals far away from THE POD. According to the forecast, her watch will end sometime around 8PM tonight! It's 4PM now as I write this, and I haven't felt the winds diminishing one little bit!

As far as Walmarts go, this isn't a bad one to "camp" at. The parking lot is huge and we're several hundred yards from the storefront and equally far from the highway noise. It should be a rather pleasant stay later tonight when the trailer stops rockin' and rollin' with the gusting winds hitting us broadside.

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We slept in late today until 7:00AM. It's a moving day, but here on BLM land there is no check-out time looming over our heads since we are well short of the 14-day stay limit. Check-in time at the State Park where we are moving to is 4:00PM.

The weather here is clear and sunny this morning, not like it has been for the last two days. Luckily we're only moving 70-miles north of here, so we should have basically the same weather forecast there.

We burned through an entire 30-lb. bottle of propane over the last 3-days. Between cooking on the stove top, running the oven to heat some flat bread pizzas, heating water for dish washing and of course running the furnance each and every night and most days, it's not unexpected.

We damn near tied a TWO PEAS AND THE POD record this morning! The coldest temperature ever recorded outside THE POD in our 4½-years on the road has been 19°F. We've recorded that temperature twice!

The first time was in December of 2020 at De Soto State Park (AL) at an elevation of just 1522'. It snowed that day!

Most recently was in March of 2022 at Pines Springs Campground in Guadelupe Mountains National Park (TX) at an elevation of 5827'. It also snowed that day.

Today we woke to 20°F after spending all day yesterday in the lower to mid-30°F range. By the way, we had snow flurrys whirling around THE POD yesterday while it was definitely snowing up in the Organ Mountains high above us. Our elevation here is 5095'.

Speaking of breaking things, I don't think this is something that is normal. I've already placed a call to a moblie RV repair facility at our next stop and I hope we can get it straightened out before we leave there.

That is assuming we can make it the several hundred yards down this nasty bumpy road to get out of here and return to the paved roadway that awaits us.

We weren't too far down the road today when we traveled up and over the San Augustin Pass (5710') on US Highway 70. We pulled over to take in the view of the Army's White Sands Missile Range nearly 2000' below us and in the distant background you can see the Sacramento Mountains that we will be camped under tonight.

A couple hours later we found ourselves pulling into Oliver Lee Memorial State Park at the base of the Sacramento Mountains. We were unable to reserve one of their 16 campsites that have water and electric on site, so once again we'll be unplugged for the week.

That's a pretty grand entrance into the park.

Plenty of sunshine for the solar panels here!

I've even plugged the extra 300 watts of panels located on top of ROVER's capper
into THE POD to assist in charging the batteries this week.

FRIDAY - Before we can get to the sightseeing we've planned for this stop we have several important chores to do and errands to run.

We were the first vehicle in line for service at Vision Ford when they opened at 8:00AM this morning. ROVER is in need of an oil change. He's coming up on 90,000-miles and we need him to keep running troublefree for another 90K.

For many reasons I won't go into, I would not recommend Vision Ford for servicing your vehicle. Let just say it was 4-hours later when we finally left with new oil in ROVER and leave it at that.

Spending so much time this morning at FORD put us way behind to accomplish all the other things we need to do today.

Next up was to head for the Post Office to pickup our General Delivery mail that I've already verified is the waiting for us. I'm so glad that went smoothly, because sometimes it doesn't.

Next up right across the street is an Amazon Hub Counter that's located inside of a local pharmacy. We have two separate orders due to arrive here today and I'm hoping that both will be available to pickup by this afternoon. Nope, just one arrived today! We'll have to come back tomorrow for the other one.

Next up was a trip to the local Goodyear Tire Store for a set of four new tires ($1296.16). We ordered new tires last week and they are here and ready to be installed. We also have special "metal valve stems" (free from FORD) to be installed that will help relieve the extra weight of our external TPMS sensors. We already have these on THE POD and they have been working great.

Now that ROVER is mostly taken care of, new oil and new tires, it's time to take care of us. Taking a look at the husky tire installer at Goodyear I went out on a limb and asked him to recommend somewhere to eat in Alamogordo. Without hestitation he said, "If you like BBQ head on over to Fatwood's and if you'd rather have a good hamburger right across the street is the Hi-D-Ho Drive In." He also added that if we had more time, and didn't mind a 30-minute scenic drive up to the nearby town of Cloudcroft, that Mad Jack's Mountaintop Barbecue would well be worth the trip. We were hungry, so Fatwood's BBQ was our choice for lunch today.

The Goodyear Store we went to no longer does in-house wheel alignments, they send them out to be done, and that means it's usually an all day affair. Goodyear also charges $139 for an alignment, so I checked around town and found that the Big O Tire store does in-house alignments for $99. I made a 3:00PM appointment and arrived early.

What the Big O Tire employee didn't say, and I didn't ask, was that I suspect people who purchase tires there automatically go to the front of the line when it comes to the order in which the alignments are scheduled.

Fair enough, I understand their position, but it was another 1½-hours to get our 30-minute alignment completed, even though I had an appointment.

It was nearing 5:00PM and we still had a trip to Walmart planned to fill two of our 3-gallon water jugs and grab a few items. So when we arrived back at camp it was getting dark, it was 6:00PM and 10½-hours since we last saw THE POD.

What a long day, but we did get everything done we "needed" to get done, so tomorrow let the sightseeing begin!

SATURDAY - Way back when Tricia and I decided that full-time traveling would be a large part of our retirement we discussed what it was we wanted to go see.

On top of that list, for both of us, were to visit ALL of the National Parks that are located in "The Lower 48 States". There are 51 of them and by the end of this year, if all goes according to plan, we will have visited 30 of them.

While National Parks are amazing and sometimes educational, we also decided that quirky-fun-unique roadside attractions (like those found along Route 66) should also be sought out as part of our travels.

Well today we get to visit one of each of these "Must See" (at least for us) destinations.

Located just north of the small town of Alamogordo, NM (pop. 30,898) is the World's Largest Pistachio at PistachioLand. The huge 30' tall concrete pistachio is located along Highway US-54 in front of the equally huge gift shop of course.

In order to recieve the full experience here at this unique attraction we took the 15-minute $3 tour aboard the appropriately colored Pistachio Green Tour Car.

It ended up being a Private Tour seeing as how no one else signed up for the first tour of the day (10AM), but that was OK with us! We drove out through the pistachio tree farm and learned all about this tasty nut. Did you know there are male and female pistachio trees and only the female trees produce nuts? We didn't know.

The trees are all bare this time of year, the nuts are harvested in late summer and early fall, but a few nuts could still be seen on a several of the trees we drove by.

In the gift shop they have a nut dispenser in the middle of the store where you can continuously "sample" at least a dozen different flavored pistachios they sell. They also have several different Pistachio Brittles to sample, but you have to ask for them at the Coffee Bar.

We ended up with over $50 worth of pistachio products and I purchased some Key Lime infused Honey and Marmalade. If you spend $100 or more you'll receive a FREE PistachiolLand Coffe Mug, no thank you.

Now that we've seen quirky, let's see a National Park too.

At 275-square miles White Sands is the largest gypsum dunefield on Earth. It was first designated a National Monument in 1933 by President Herbert Hoover and later obtained the National Park status in December of 2019, signed into law by Congress and President Donald Trump.

Shortly after the upgrade to become our 62nd National Park is when COVID-19 closed most all of the National Park Service properties. Now, three years later, they still haven't been able to change all of the larger signage over to relay it's new status.

Even most, but not all, of the highway signs leading you to the National Park still read National Monument.

None the less, it is a National Park, and therefore is included on our Must See list, not that we have skipped past very many of the National Monuments along our route anyway.

As always when visiting a National Park the first order of business is to get out my National Park Passport Book and collect the cancellation stamp on the appropriate page. Next it was time to watch the 20-minute film discussing all things unique and important about the park.

After that it was time to jump in ROVER's front seat, drive over to the Entrance Station, show them my Lifetime Senior's Pass (which grants us free entrance) and drive the 8-mile scenic road all the way to the center of the dunefield.



See what I mean about the signage! This one is right outside of the Visitor Center.

At about 2-miles into the scenic drive you're already surrounded by the White Sands.

The road twists and turns through the valleys between the dunes.

At about the 3-mile mark the asphalt road dissappears.

The larger dunes look and act like snow banks.

They are even prone to include avalanche conditions.

The gypsum crystals are so fine it's more like talcum power.

At about the 7-mile mark you'll start to see several picnic areas in the park.

Almost everywhere you look you'll see human footprints in the dunes.

Some of the highest dunes are located near the end of the road.

Still plenty of footprints and people...

...can be seen everywhere.

You're allowed to bring RVs and trailers out into the park,
but you'll need to be gone around sunset, no overnighting allowed here.

Horses are also permitted in the park and on some of the hiking trails.

This photo looks just like the White Sands Natonal Park patch they sell in the gift shop.

This dune looked to be about 50-feet tall.

Still looks a lot like snow to me! How about you?

We did walk one of the short trails into the dunes. This one was a .4 mile long boardwalk stroll.

At the end of the trail you were awarded a great view of the Sierra Blanca Peak.

Looking back from the end of the trail you can just see the parking lot.

We picked the perfect weather day to visit White Sands National Park, as evidenced by all the New Mexico license plates we saw in the parking lots. In New Mexico this is considered equivalent to a day at the beach. With little wind to blow the sands around and mild temperatures included in the bright sunny day it just doesn't get any better.

Something else which is unique about this National Park is that it is located entirely within the Army's White Sands Missle Range and is prone to be shut down when the Army is doing any kind of activity on the range. Sometimes this occurs with only a few days notice, so if you're planning a visit, call ahead and check on the status of the park.

At the end of the day we had a good visit and were glad we came to see this unique National Park. We were both a little bit underwhelmed and expected more from a National Park. We felt maybe this should have been designated a National Recreation Area instead, or just left as a National Monument as it had been for the last 86 years.

MONDAY - Yesterday it drizzled rain all day, and most of the night, but it never got below 49°F overnight or rose above 54°F during the day. That wasn't the case just 35-miles north of camp in the town of Cloudcroft.

The elevation here at camp is 4400' and the elevation of the restaurant in Cloudcroft where we ate lunch today is 8650'. For those of you who are mathematically challenged, that's a change of 4250' with most of that occurring over the last 17-miles of today's route.

While it may have been drizzling here, it was snowing up in the Sacramento Mountains surrounding Cloudcroft.

Before we went in search of lunch we had a couple of lingering errands to take care of first.

We went back to the FORD Dealer and picked up a brand new passenger-side tail-light lens housing ($191.78-ouch!) to replace the one currently on ROVER which has sprung a leak. For the last six months I have been seeing condensation inside of the lens, that's not good. More recently, I've been seeing as much as 2" of water inside the bottom of the lens. It finally burned out the lower brake/turn signal bulb and that's what prompted me to finally address the problem.

Friday while I was getting the oil changed I went into the parts department and ordered the new lens. It comes complete with all new bulbs and wiring, and by removing just two screws and popping a few nylon push pins loose the whole assembly just comes right off. It should be an easy fix, right?

Next we went to get one of our propane bottles refilled, AGAIN, because with no electricity we have to rely on propance to heat THE POD, day and night. In addition, the refrigerator and stove both use propane, and a 30-lb. bottle only lasts us about 3-4 days. That's why we have three 30-lb. bottles and ALWAYS try to have at least two of them completely full.

We also went to the ACE Hardware Store in town to purchase some kind of a rubber tip to place on the end of my hiking stick. I'm going to need that for a "special" hike we are doing in April, more on that later.

Now that all the chores are done, it's time to start heading UP, UP, UP to Cloudcroft for lunch. Along the route we have several planned stops.

On the northern edge of Alamogordo's city limits you'll find that the (East/West) US-82 branches off of the (North/South) US-54 and heads up into the Sacramneto Mountains and Lincoln National Forest. At the very top of this drive you'll find the town of Cloudcroft.

Just a short distance from the intersection of US-54 and US-82 we found the Pistachio Tree Ranch Country Store (4511' elevation), which is owned and operated by the same family that owns PistachioLand, located just five miles north of here on US-54.

We didn't stop in, I just liked the sign out front, besides we already have enough pistachios.

Next stop was the Tunnel Vista Observation Site (6132' elevation). As you might have guessed there is a tunnel here that cuts through the mountain and brings you out the other side into the Lincoln National Forest. It is a very scenic stop, even if the sun wasn't out lighting up the mountainside.

It's a fairly short tunnel, but still fun to drive through. We didn't have many of these in Florida!

Check out all the different layers of rock in that wall.

Here you can see the "blowing sand" in White Sands National Park.
Glad we're not out there visiting today!

For this next stop we've been seeing billboards all along the highway leading into and through the town of Alamogordo. We were surprised to find the location isn't even in Alamogordo, instead is located in the little town of High Rolls, NM.

The Old Apple Barn (6763' elevation) is a gift shop/fudge factory/bistro/soda fountain and home to what I suspect is the World's Largest Apple Boy, mainly because he's the world's only apple boy.

He's 12-foot tall and 500 pounds of pure joy, he's Apple Boy! How's that for a slogan?

We did stop and walk through this location. I ended up with a ¼-pound chunk of "White Sands" White Chocolate Fudge and a ½-gallon jug of their Cherry Cider. Tricia picked up a few new wooden spoons and a new Kokopelli dish towel for the kitchen.

The next stop was another scenic stop at the Mexican Canyon Railroad Trestle (8450' elevation) located in the Lincoln National Forest. This trestle was in service from 1899 to 1947 and is one of only a few still standing along the 26-mile route nicknamed the "The Cloud Climbing Railroad".

Notice anything different about these last three photos?
There's snow on the ground because we are now up over 8400' in elevation.

This last stop was my personal favorite, LUNCH!

On the far eastern side of the town of Cloudcroft you'll find Big Daddy's Diner (8650' elevation). The food we ate here was first rate, not diner food at all.

Tricia had a Chicken Burrito with Queso Sauce, rice and refried beans. She couldn't even finish half of it, so the other half came home in a styrofoam container. I on the other hand was thoroughly prepared to feast on the "All You Can Eat Catfish" Dinner, which included your choice of three sides (Cowboy Beans-Corn-Mac•N•Cheese for me), two Hushpuppies and three catfish fillets to start you off with. I put all that away and ordered another two fillets before calling it quits. A Sweet Tea in a mason jar washed it all down.

I was "stuffed". No dinner for me tonight! UPDATE: I had fudge for dinner.

We arrived at 11:30AM and the place was almost empty, never a good sign for a restaurant.

By noon the placed was packed and so was the snow covered parking lot outside.

Nothing to do now except drive back DOWN the mountain.
I'm sure my gas mileage will be at least double what I got on the ride up here!

WEDNESDAY - We are leaving Oliver Lee Memorial State Park a day earlier than we reserved for. We have an appointment at the RV repair shop this morning on the other side of town to finally resolve this fresh water leak we've been dealing with for a few weeks now.

Rather than return to our campsite we'll find somewhere else to spend one night. If we came back to this campsite we would have to unhitch THE POD in order to fit ROVER into the campsite, plus we would need to re-level everything because this site has a pretty mean downward slope to it.

Here are a few parting photos of our Campsite #29 here at Oliver Lee Memorial State Park.

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